Nicholas Culpeper

Culpeper’s complete English herbal

Thomas Culpeper  Medical astrologer herbalist and pharmacist

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Rating 7 out of 10

I never really understood this book for a long time. People would say get Culpeper and I would wonder why – its old, the botany is in some parts well out of date, there is this random astrological knowledge,  It just a historical work big deal!

Then in my herbal studies we covered medical astrology and the four humors (choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, and melancholic) This along with Matt Woods’s book on herbal energetics in Western herbal medicine cause a big revaluation.

Encoded into this book is the most amazing knowledge if you have the eyes to look. Culpeper was a rebel; he published a book in plain English that beforehand was only in pharmaceutical Latin being guild knowledge. A removal of the church censorship at the time allowed this book to be printed and the knowledge shared with the common folk.

He relates the plants to the humors but even more consistently he rates the plants to astrological signs and planets. He wrote specific works on medical astrology such as Semeiotica Uranica, or an Astrological Judgement of Diseases. Also written was a specific work on midwifery. Try this quote of his on all you practitioners of herbs!

To such as study astrology,(who are the only men I know that are fit to study physic, physic without astrology being like a lamp without oil) you are the men I exceedingly respect, and such documents as my brain can give you at present, being absent from my study, I shall give you.

The value of this work is the medical astrology component. The herbal knowledge is drawn from the herb books of the time.  Contemplating the herbs in the light of their astrological correspondences opens up new levels of meaning.

At this time anatomical knowledge was rudimentary. The astrological component was used to match the herbs to the patient. It also involved an elaborate system of supporting and counteracting astrological influences.

Benjamin Wooley in his biography Heal Thyself gives us the few biographical details actually known about Culpeper and also the political and social climate in which he lived. I got frustrated with the lack of actual herbal knowledge by Wooley but his strength is in giving us the context of the person. He also wrote  a similar work for John Dee.

Read this quote on for his take on education – compare it to the contempary debate about full fee universities.

Unless a man have gotten a very large estate he is not able to bring up his son to understand Latin. A dozen years of expense of time will hardly do it as they have ordered matters, in which time, whipping and cruel usage, the brains of many are too stuped that they are unfit to study. People miserably hampered by a scholastical net that they cannot get out of if they do see it. Righteous God look upon poor people and redeem them out of such Egyptian bondage.

Why buy the book?

Support a rebel – the medical astrology knowledge – unique insight into 17th century herbalism

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